VfCA spoke with ABC Riverina about strengthening environmental laws

“We’d like to call on animal lovers everywhere to join us in advocating for stronger action on climate change so we can protect the animal species that we love”

Vets for Climate Action spoke with ABC Riverina on Monday, 13 November, about strengthening environmental laws to protect our unique wildlife. You can listen to Dr Elise Anderson here.

Here is the transcript:

Radio Host  00:00

But we are in the midst of bushfire season and certain plants and animals have been given a high protection status to help with the hot season ahead. And this includes a few crayfish, a frog and the broad tooth rat, veterinarian and spokesperson for Vets for climate change. Dr. Elise Anderson spoke to airport Shauna Foley about the protection status, and what environmental laws should be in place to protect these species.

Shauna Foley (Journalist)  00:26

We're entering bushfire season and the federal government has announced over 30 million you're going to be given for certain species to give them a higher protection level. What What are your thoughts on this?

Dr Elise Anderson  00:38

Obviously, we always welcome any funding images that are looking to protect our native species. Unfortunately, bushfires have had a devastating impact on our native wildlife for over the last few years, you only have to look at the 2019 2020 black summer bushfires as an example, we lost an estimated 3 billion animals in those fires. And as a result of that, some species have really been pushed onto the threatened lists and really facing risk of extinction. And some of those animals were added to the threatened species list this week with the government adding an extra 25 species on there. So we welcome any change that and any funding that will help protect our species. But there's a lot more work still to be done. Of the 25 species that were added to the threatened list. That includes plants, there was about 10 plant species, but also several mammal species and some aquatic species as well like crayfish, fish, and frogs. To give you an example of one of those which is local to my area, the broad tooth wraps have been added on to the endangered list. Most people aren't very fond of rats, but this is a very cute native rat species. Small little critter that lives on the outskirts of urban areas. And unfortunately, they've lost 70 to 90% of their habitat for fires in recent years, when they were already under pressure from habitat destruction due to development and also predation from invasive species. So they're in a lot of trouble. And with more fires coming up this year, with a hot and dry summer predicted, we're certainly looking at that prospect for a lot more about native animals.

Shauna Foley (Journalist)  02:26

So Vets for climate change has made a statement that these environmental laws need to incorporate the effects of climate change. Could you touch on on that a little bit more?

Dr Elise Anderson  02:37

Absolutely. Our current federal environmental laws, over 20 years old, they were first introduced in 1999. And times have changed a lot since then climate change is no longer I'll have medical future risk. We're feeling the impacts of that now, and so is our ecosystems and our animal species. Unfortunately, though, the current environmental laws don't require the government to consider the risks of climate change or any projects when they're approving them. So if we look at the example, for instance of a coal mine, it might, they might need to take into account things like local threatened species impacts on plants and on vegetation and animal species and water use locally. But the emissions, the carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases produced by that project over the lifetime, that it will be in existence aren't taken into account. And even though those emissions are the primary driving factors of climate change, and really emphasizing the risks that are posed to our environment and our species. So we think that the environmental laws really need to be strongly reformed so that climate change impacts of projects are taken into account.

Shauna Foley (Journalist)  03:51

And outside of that's for climate action. Are you seeing other advocacy groups pushing for this to be included as well in federal government? 

Dr Elise Anderson  04:01

Absolutely. That's climate action works really closely with lots of different environmental groups. And we're all pretty well united on the idea that the environment laws need to be strengthened. And to include climate change is a really important factor.

Shauna Foley (Journalist)  04:16

Are there any in the works or in progress at the moment to have these laws changed.

Dr Elise Anderson  04:23

And that's good news, because it means that the government has a current and present opportunity to make these changes that are required. The laws were reviewed in 2020. And that independent review really found that they weren't fit for the purpose of protecting the environment that they were designed for. Which, which means that a lot of serious work needs to be done. The changes to the laws are currently under consultation and we're expecting that new laws will be released next year. The changes that we would like to see to the environment laws distinct And then to protect our species and our natural environment would would really mean that the government would need to take climate change effects explicitly into account when they're improving, approving projects under the environmental laws. So just making the maintenance of a safe and livable climate, a primary objective around environmental laws is an important place to start. We think that the laws need to take into account the carbon emissions and contribution of climate change of a project when those are being assessed for approval. And obviously, we'd like to see continued strengthening of protection for threatened species and funding programs that will help to protect those

Shauna Foley (Journalist)  05:45

And is there anything you believe that the government could do now, as we're in bushfire season? Is there anything that they you think that they can adopt straightaway, to help these species in these plants?

Dr Elise Anderson  05:58

I think that the current funding that's just been announced is a really good start. I'm I was really pleased to say that the emphasis of that that round of funding was on putting into place local plans to produce to protect certain species at a very local level. So that would enable local environmental groups, local government departments and local emergency services to really take the time to work out where their threatened species and threatened ecosystems are, and to have emergency management plans in place to protect those in the face of bushfires. Unfortunately, climate change means that bushfires are getting more severe and more prolonged and destroying bigger areas of habitat over time. And so it's really important that we know where those at risk species are, and that we have localized plans in place for their production. I'm not entirely sure exactly where that fund is being directed at the moment. But I think, all across Australia, we have amazing wildlife and vegetation and beautiful natural heritage that really needs to be protected. So I'd love to see that happening in my local area, you know that some climate acts and we really strongly recognize that, that climate change poses a risk to the health and the welfare of animals that we all love. And that's so important to so many of us, but for lots of different reasons. And so we'd like to call on animal lovers everywhere to join us in advocating for stronger action on climate change, so that we can protect the animal species that we love.

Radio Host  07:28

That's Elise Anderson. She is a vet and spokesperson for Vets for Climate Action, speaking to our reporter Shauna Foley on the new protection laws being put in place for certain plants and animals and I'd love to hear what you think about that. And do you think maybe more animals should have made that list and will plants let me know.